Beneath The Confederate Flag II

Chuck Thompson has a book out called Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession. While researching for the book, he traveled along the south and was, for some reason, not graciously received. He writes:

If it did nothing else, my time in the South did teach me to empathize with Southerners of all political persuasions who are sick and tired of having the honor of their region traduced by moralizing Northern jackasses such as myself (however impressively informed and well-intentioned we might be). For enduring the constant shaming and petty ridicule of the North, Southerners deserve some sort of national medal.

Still, there seems to be something dysfunctionally (and uniquely) Dixie at play in a bellicosity so intense that it leads otherwise intelligent people to the trough of abuse rather than to the table of intelligent counterpoint when confronted with an opinion that’s critical of their way of thinking.

Not for nothin’, but these two things are not unrelated. Beleaguered populations circle their wagons. When someone suggests about how much more awesome the nation would be if it weren’t for those redneck hicks, someone else from the same region making “impressively informed and well-intentioned” criticisms is likely to be met with more hostility and less reason than they otherwise might. That’s not fair to the second person, but it’s also not happening in a vacuum.

As a product of the South, who left and is unlikely to ever return on a permanent basis, I always read these sorts of things on two levels. Substantively, I agree with a number of the criticisms and levy them myself. I disagree with other criticisms. Beneath it all, though, I primarily want the South to be a better place. I don’t doubt that many outside critics feel the same way. Sometimes it’s a desire for the South to simply be like them or agree with them, which is similar but not the same thing. Other times, though, one gets the distinct impression that the South’s role is merely to be that backwards place that thank heavens we are all better than.

The Confederate Flag is one of my ever-present examples. I want the flag to come down. I want it removed from Mississippi’s flag, I don’t want it flying over any statehouses or even any Confederate memorial graves (the Stars & Bars should be sufficient, as a historical relic). Now, I run into problems on two fronts. The first group is those that want to fly the flag and fly it proudly. The second group are outsiders who are demanding that the flag be taken down, but will ultimately heap a similar amount of scorn on the region if they do. Taking down the flag would not, after all, change the fundamental disagreements causing much of the conflict. Even absent the most fundamental thing (or the thing perceived as being most fundamental) – race – the divisions exist.

And, to be honest, as long as the State of Texas is depicted by some lunatic judge in Texas, and people choose to identify the south with the least desirable among them, well… it’s hard for the truly well-meaning to get a fair hearing. I don’t think that this is a phenomenon particularly unique to the South. Along these lines…

One wonders why this Southerner—and others who beat the same drum of outrage—are not instead asking, “Why is a KKK Grand Dragon able to operate a long-running business selling Klan robes, booklets outlining Klan rituals and related disease across from the courthouse in a town square in 2012?”

What, precisely, are southerners or Americans supposed to do to make them no longer “able” to operating such a business? Yet, until they are somehow driven out of business, they besmirch the region? A failure to close down a store on the basis of its politics is “looking the other way”? Objecting residents can boycott, but they are unlikely to be shopping there in the first place. As long as this is the metric by which the South is to be judged, it’s a losing proposition.

There are some similarities living in the non-urban Mountain West, and I would bet the Great Plains as well. What’s The Matter With Kansas and all that. There was a reason that Sarah Palin resonated so. The South, though, is in a league all its own in terms of reciprocal disdain.

I’m not trying to argue “poor little Dixie” here. I am among those that see some serious problems. I may see some things that are not problems or greatly exaggerated mixed in with the critical soup, but that doesn’t constitute much of a defense. I left the region and have little desire to go back. Further, I myself am guilty of the antagonism that I describe. Not towards the corner of the region where I grew up, but towards other areas lower on the pecking order of acceptable-thinking Americans.

A little while ago, I cocked an eyebrow when Mississippi State University announced itself as the location of the Ulysses Grant Presidential Library. My initial reaction to reading this was… not charitable. The more I read, though, the more interesting the story was. I was tempted to be dismissive because, well, we all know how a whole lot of Mississippians feel towards the Civil War. However, if that sort of thing is ever to change, southerners and southern organizations like MSU need to take these steps and need to be applauded for doing so. Skepticism, or holding over the belated timing of these things, undermines the forces for necessary change and emboldens intransigence. It pushes people in the middle away from compromise and encourages the circling of wagons.

I was raised in an extended family that was… not forward thinking, in many ways. With a view of history that does not stand up much to scrutiny. And growing up, I bought into a lot of it. That’s what happens when you’re taught something. Like a lot of people, I moved beyond that. But it’s an attractive myth. Wanting to be proud of where you come from. Making convenient the fact that a lot of the relics that have been passed on from generation to generation involve having been on the wrong side of one of the nation’s great moral struggles. It’s very seductive. It requires little in the way of mental gymnastics to not see any contradiction between having these views and having friends (or at least acquaintances) of color. And those people who talk trash about you and yours? It only helps the myth, really. People telling you that the country would be better off without the likes of you only hardens it. It’s a line in the sand that I was born on the wrong side of. One where it is a challenge to look at the line and agree with the actual dynamics of the righteous and wrong side.

The existence of sides, of course, is not the invention of the South’s critics. It is an invention of history and, to the extent that it lingers, primarily of the South itself. But to erase that line, and for the South to move beyond it, discussions about which Americans are the ideal Americans and which collective groups of people holding the rest of us back are counterproductive. Actions that are wrong should be criticized. People that commit actions that are wrong should be criticized. Looking at collective groups of people and identifying them by the loudest and most intransigent among them breeds intransigence. It empowers it.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


    • The west in general was more sympathetic to the South than the North for a host of reasons. UNLV once had a rebel flag on its helmet. What puzzles me is when I see people try to hold on to that. Not that I have a problem with UNLV being the Rebels (Dixie College is a closer call, though the actual history should be noted and not ignored), but by and large they have an opportunity to glide away from that which actual Confederate States don’t have.

      • And yet you have huge swaths of people here, many of them huge benfactors of the college, like the CEO of SkyWest airlines, threatening to withhold funding if the college drops the name “Dixie”. The college just had to remove a statue of two confederate soldiers, one flying the rebel flag, because they were so concerned about it being vandalized.

        I understand that none of the people associated with the college or any of the benefactors see no harm in the name and intend no harm in the name, but it just seems the wiser course of action for a college that will soon become a University( and was once shot down from becoming a satellite University with the University of Utah because of its name) would find something with less baggage (especially for folks from other parts of the country) with which to associate themselves.

  1. The writer of that book does sound like a jackass. One that i don’t want to be associated with for what its worth.

    Just for the sake of polite respectful disagreement I’ll note that southerners have felt they were the bestest, most free, most honourable, hardest working exemplars of what it means to be American for at least a couple hundred years if not more. Part of the reaction Southerners may engender in others is based on being loudly boastful as opposed to expressing opinions on race that aren’t popular now. It is one thing to be looked down on by others. It is another to be looked down on by others when you are sure that you are actually the superior person.

    • Oh, I think a lot of the reaction to what you refer to is quite understandable. And yeah, that’s a part of it. It all feeds the circle, though. If people would at least wait for the other person to assert superiority before attempting to knock it down, we’d be making some real progress… or, when a southerner is being a jackass, taking the southerner to task for being a jackass rather than thinking of it in terms of those southerners (identifying a group or region by its least desirable component).

    • What do you make of the Albion’s Seed/American Nations line of argument? Basically that that are 4-11 different colonizing cultures that formed the United States and these cultures never learned to play with each other very well.

      According to the thesis, the culture of the South was largely formed by aristocratic Cavaliers and Scots-Irish Borderlanders. The Cavaliers were always distrustful of popular government and saw themselves as natural aristocrats. The Scots-Irish Borderlanders were of a “leave us alone mentality”. This is not going to mesh well with New England Yankee views of government as a tool for socially improving everyone, New Amsterdam civil libertarianism, and Quaker Pacifism (Borderlanders were prone to fighting because of hundreds of years of war in the North of England and then being used to attack Irish-Catholics. In American Nations, the author notes that Appllachia has supported every American War regardless of cause or origin.)

      I consider myself to be a Northerner. My ancestors did not come to the States until decades after the Civil War but they settled in New York/the Northeast and those Yankee and New Amsterdam values seeped into mine. Now I live on the Left Coast which always had more in common with Massachusetts and New York than Colorado or Idaho.

      Greginak is largely right that a lot of my apprehension towards the South is more because of their Southerners are the only true American spiel than anything else. It discounts the Americaness of anyone urban.

      That being said, I think the Confederate Flag has morphed into something beyond a symbol of the Lost Cause. I know think it is used as a universal Fuck You sign in America by the rural, white poor. I’ve heard that rural, white, and poor Canadians are also fond of flying the Confederate Flag. They know it pisses off upper-middle class, urban liberal types and they use it as a sign of rejecting upper-middle class, urban liberal values.

      • ND, it’s not my view that everybody has to like everybody else or be super-duper nice to one another. More like… it doesn’t suddenly become okay to talk or joke or talk jokingly about how this country would be better off without so-and-so simply because we’re talking about (white) southerners. Even to the extent that we can say “they started it with their talk about secession” because the “they” who are signing the petitions and the “they” that it’s being talked about everyone being better off without are not the same group. (I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’ve had some real negative things to say about “Real America” talk, too. I view it differently than Greg does, but it doesn’t make it any less inappropriate.)

        I’m familiar with the vague outline of American Nations. From what I do know of it, I think that there is some truth to it. Though I think a lot of what makes regions the way they are is circumstantial, too.

        • Incidentally, this was revised and posted due to a thread with Kazzy and Hanley. It was actually written before the election and the damn petitions.

          • I’m proud to have played some small part (unbeknownst to me) in such a fine essay.

        • I think it is more that Northern liberals are tired of dealing with Southerners and their attitudes and we are at the “Okay, leave. We are tired of hearing you shoot your foot again.” Usually this happens after Southerner’s begin talking about secession when they lose an election.

          • Now… define “you.” This isn’t entirely analogous to the whole “Fine, then, move to Canada since Bush won” because the scalpel here is not nearly so precise.

          • I define “you” as being people who bring up Secession very loudly (and are not necessarily confined to the South) or people who bring up the nullification arguments like Rick Perry.


            I have a particular bit of ire at Texas in general. Most of the fucked up Criminal Justice stories I hear come from Texas. Usually along the lines of people who should never been prosecuted in the first place:



            Now these stories can and do happen everywhere especially the last one but Texas seems to have an especially high number of them.

          • Well Texas is an extremely unique place to put it politely. But most Southerners don’t talk about Secession and most Texans aren’t actually as clownish as some of their brethren let on. Even just speaking in the narrow political frame, while Texas is a red state, there are large blue swaths.

            A couple friends of my wife’s family biked across the country a couple summers ago. They had great stories about running into people in rural Louisiana who were wonderfully friendly and giving. They were invited back to the peoples home and fed a mountain of fresh seafood. Now the couple didn’t mention they were Jewish ( and really liberal also) since that can provoke some unfortunate feelings in some people. Who knows what the reaction would have been, but there was no reason to bring it up. But they had great memories of good friendly people.

          • Do you see why I might have a problem with people saying “Go, then, we’re better off without you?” to a state where 100,000 out of 20+ million signed a petition? I’ve never seen a poll of Texans wherein secession is actually supported. (I’ve never seen any data for other states, though I would assume that they’d all lag behind Texas in that regard.)

            (Humorously, while seeing what data I could find – I found a reference to a 2009 poll where under 20% supported secession – I ran across a piece by one Chuck Thompson wherein he said that Texas would actually do okay. Of course, problem is, it’s not what Texans actually want.)

          • 20% meh..that kind of poll is just begging for people to answer yes without thinking about since it isn’t even remotely close to happening. In any case i subscribe to the 27% crazification factor theory from Balloon Juice. In short a quarter of all people are just plain nuts. They might be nice in many ways, but still, just nuts.

          • Given that even at UT, we have clowns like Lino Gaglia…well I dunno, Will. I’m kind of angry lately and tired of dealing with this bullshit.

            …we have this legislature that’s hellbent on making sure Texas turns into a crony-capitalist state that puts the Central Asian ‘stans to shame and the fact that the majority in this state continue to elect these clowns in large numbers….

          • I’ve never seen any data for other states, though I would assume that they’d all lag behind Texas in that regard.

            Since I’ve put some software together, I’m always looking for an excuse to generate cartograms. Here’s one that shows the number of petition signatures relative to state population. States that jump out: North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware. Yes, Delaware. Texas is pretty well down on the list. Signature counts were from some point in November after petitions for all the states had been up for a while. State population numbers from Wikipedia.

      • I don’t think the cofed flag is solely aimed at upper middle class types. I’ve seen plenty of people with money who drape themselves in the flag.

        Albion’s Seed is a great book and think there is a lot to the thesis. However the farther you get from the settling of the various regions the more sketchy it is to see it as accurate. There was a lot of mixing of peoples eventually and unique strains of Americaness was laid over the drives from the old world.

        My grandparents came to the US in the 1920’s from Greece and Poland. They settles in suburban/urban NJ. I certainly think of myself as a Northerner is i had to assign myself to a region. The immigration of so many of our families since the mid 1800’s is one of those things that waters down the original strains of the first settlers. That doesn’t mean nothing is left. People from the South tend to join the military in greater numbers and are much more focused on Honor Culture as examples.

        • I have no region, frustratingly enough. I am from the south, but my temperament doesn’t match the region. I live in the rural west, but that doesn’t really match either (it’s closer, though). The closest I’ve come is really the Pacific Northwest… except my politics don’t match (and neither does my upbringing, though humorously enough my upbringing is not as antithetical to the northeast except for the whole war thing).

        • I don’t think the cofed flag is solely aimed at upper middle class types. I’ve seen plenty of people with money who drape themselves in the flag.

          Forgot to comment on this. It’s becoming increasingly uncommon. The flag – even in the south – is increasingly becoming a class marker. For a variety of reasons.

          • ?class marker? Are you saying it is tied to poor/working class whites? To a degree yes, but I think its a bit more that that.

            urg…my post at 6:24am should read “That pretty much makes you an Alaskan.”

            624am…what kind of stupid time zone do they think we are in?!

          • I would tie it more closely to social class than economic class (and yeah, of course within a single race). It’s not the sum total of the flag issue, but middle and upper class folks have moderated their behavior in this regard within living memory. We had a confederate flag on my brother’s door growing up. We wouldn’t have one today regardless of the family’s thoughts on associated issues.

      • I have a lot of reservations about Albion’s Seed because in my view, it’s a piece of very poor scholarship. Fisher, in my view, simply makes assertions and cherry picks examples to “prove” them.

        I would interject that factors in addition to culture of origin were at least as important. These factors would be economics (subsistence vs. commercial; staple vs. diversity; agricultural vs. mercantile), labor (slave, indentured, “free”), religion (more organized vs. less organized), founding political norms (early 1600 charters vs. late 1600 charters, “crown” colonies vs. proprietorships and when and how the chartered colonies became crown colonies); each region’s peculiar relations with the Indian nations.

        Fisher doesn’t neglect many of these–and he makes much haw out of religion–and these factors do inform and help define “culture,” but I also think they are separate things, or at least things that operate more or less independently of what Fisher identifies as culture.

        All that said, I must admit that I’m temperamentally disposed against that type of cultural argument, so perhaps I’m being hypercritical. And even if I’m right that the book’s argument is ill-supported, it’s being ill-supported doesn’t invalidate the argument. It will be interesting to see what people will (or have) done in ways of research to interrogate Fisher’s idea more fully.

        • How much were ECONOMICS and LABOR based on culture?

          Do I need to remind you that the Scotch Irish got kicked out of Quaker-land for beating their children to death?

          Next, one ought to take care about overgeneralizing. The scotchirish who made it out to Orange County California are substantially different from the ones who settled in Pittsburgh (to whit: the crazier and ornerier the Scotch Irish, the more they got kicked out of places, and went to less civilized place to live. Selective migration, that).

          The Scotch Irish wouldn’t have kept slaves in the same way as the Cavaliers, no way no how. In fact, you’d have seen more of the non-pacific Indian version of slavery (where you did your part, and your kids would be just another tribe member). And you see this dynamic in the blacks who settled in the hills — they do blend in, and in remarkably few generations.

          Now, let’s take them Quaker states. You don’t get Priestley without freedom of religion! Hell, you don’t get Franklin either. Freedom of culture is what drives creative types into little enclaves (right now we call them ‘cities’).

      • Now I live on the Left Coast which always had more in common with Massachusetts and New York than Colorado or Idaho.

        While there are some similarities between West Coast and the coastal areas of the Northeast, my own opinion is that those similarities occur mostly in the densest urban areas and are really rather superficial (in the sense that urban areas anywhere have similar problems and will adopt similar methods to address them). Outside of the core urban areas, I have always found the two coasts to have very different cultural “feels”; enough so that someone moving from a suburb on one coast to a suburb on the other, will struggle for years to get comfortable.

        If someone gave me three states — California, Massachusetts, and Colorado — and asked me to pick the one that was unlike the other two, I would argue that California and Colorado are much more like each other than either is like Massachusetts. And that it’s a trend — in 20 years, California and Colorado will be more similar than they are today, and Massachusetts will be more different from both of them than it is today.

        Apologies if I shouldn’t interpret “West Coast” to mean mostly the 37 million Californians. Although every time I’ve been in Seattle, it has felt much more like Denver than like Boston to me.

        • Never seen hitchhikers given official approval around Denver.
          Never seen folks burn down people’s houses as a prank around Denver (hoo, boy, with the wildfires? you’d get lynched!)

          Outside the cities, you get a whole different culture. Washington felt very Indian, at least up near Olympia. Denver felt much more Hispanic (though I’m from Pittsburgh, so feel free to yell at me about how I don’t know nothin’)

          • Different parts of the West are rural in very different ways. The cities tend to be urban in somewhat different ways as well, although my own experience is that those differences are less than the rural ones. However, in today’s West, to paraphrase Bill Parcells, “You are what your suburbs say you are,” and the suburbs are (at least IMO) much more alike.

            I’ll repeat a link to a population cartogram that I gave below. Population patterns between East and West are enormously different. In the West, it is easy to point to the bulges representing all of the important population centers: in counter-clockwise order, Seattle-Portland, San Francisco-Tahoe, Southern California, Las Vegas, the Valley of the Sun centered on Phoenix, Albuquerque, the Colorado Front Range, Utah’s Wasatch Front, and Boise. Essentially everything else gets smashed down to nothing because it’s empty. In the East, changes in population density overall are rather smooth and there aren’t any areas that count as empty by Western standards. Try to differentiate Pittsburgh from Ohio/Indiana on the map.

            Will’s heard me up on my soapbox before (thanks for tolerating that, Will) but there a number of things that the 11 contiguous states of the West have in common that make them different from the East (which, if you haven’t noticed, I use to mean “not one of those 11 states”, annoying the Texans greatly). To pick an easy one: federal land holdings. In each of those 11 states, the federal government has retained ownership of between 30% and 85% of the land. I can guarantee that in every legislative session, in every one of those 11 states, something that would be straightforward to deal with in an Eastern state will become quite difficult because of those federal land holdings. In a policy area that I am personally interested in, consider the problems of routing new electricity transmission from areas with renewable resources that are easy to exploit (hydro in the NW, wind on the downslope side of the Rockies, solar in Arizona) to California where it can be marketed. First questions that come up when the Western Governors Association discusses the topic? What will the feds allow us to do? What will the feds make us do? Is there any way to do this that doesn’t get crosswise with the feds?

          • Will’s heard me up on my soapbox before (thanks for tolerating that, Will)

            Are you kidding? I love it. I really hope to do that Leaguecast someday (when I’m not so sleepdrunk).

          • In washington state, they really do set fire to peoples houses as a prank (and a way of showing dislike, obviously).
            Granted, it’s the wet side of the mountains…

        • I should mention that I live in San Francisco.

          Possibly but as the Stranger noted in 2004, we don’t have a red state v. blue state divide. We have a divide between cities and many inner-ring suburbs and rural/exburb areas. Oregon stays blue because of Portland, Eugene, and maybe Salem. Rural Oregon is just as a conservative as any place in Idaho or deep South. Washington says blue because of Seattle, Olympia, and maybe a few other places.

          I only did an overnight in Denver so I cannot comment but Portland, Oregon did remind me of smaller East Coast cities in many ways. Possibly more than San Francisco reminds me of any East Coast city, though that could have been the weather.

          And I am not sure about your suburban argument. I think someone from Westchester can easily adapt to Marin.

          • I live in one of the inner-ring suburbs to Denver’s west. And am probably older than most of the people who write/post here, and admit that experiences decades old may have colored my view.

            Agree about the rural/urban thing — I’ve been hammering on that for years. What you say about Oregon and Washington is true everywhere, from California to New York and points in between. Has been for a long time. Some of these things are relative, of course. My politics (discounting a few subjects where I’m part of the lunatic fringe) are center-left for Denver. Where my Mom lives near Omaha, well left of center. In outstate Nebraska or the eastern plains in Colorado in between, I’m a left-wing crazy.

            Westchester/Marin possibly, although I think even there you might find more cultural differences than you expect. I was thinking in terms of taking any of several million middle-class suburb dwellers from the LA area and dropping them in amongst the several million middle-class suburb dwellers in New Jersey and Long Island. Or in the other direction. At least anecdotally, major culture shock. Yes, both have huge swaths of tract housing and strip malls and shopping centers, but people’s attitudes towards so many things are just… different. I’m comfortable in a California or Washington suburb in a way that I’m not in NJ. If I could define it any better, I would.

            I expect the East-West differences to become more pronounced with time. The simplest reason is simply US population patterns. Here’s a population cartogram for the 48 contiguous states. That wasp-waist that starts at about El Paso, heads NNE to the east of Denver and then NNW to the Canadian border is the rapidly-depopulating Great Plains. The population decline is an 80-year-old trend, it’s reached positive-feedback conditions, and nothing is going to reverse it. I argue that you can’t hold East and West together in the long term (25-50 years out) with an empty 500-mile-wide buffer zone in the middle. North and South east of that buffer may or may not find that it’s in their interests to stay together. I really think for a variety of reasons the West will leave, with the blessing of the rest of the country.

  2. What, precisely, are southerners or Americans supposed to do to make them no longer “able” to operating such a business?

    Stop buying stuff from him.

    • Mike, if his criticisms were limited to the patrons, well there ya go. Instead he’s asking how come people let this place exist.

      • These self-same people would probably protest loudly if there was a porn shop or god forbid, a mosque in the same place.

        Perhaps they can muster the outrage about seeing such a thing in their town.

        • Not that I necessarily approve of strict zoning requirements for porn stores, but I can see an argument for zoning porn stores out of certain areas as more acceptable than zoning out stores that promote an extremist/exterminationist ideology.

          But if you’re talking about protests, etc., probably people could do that if they were inclined.

        • Protests of that sort generally require a spark, some change in the status quo. Look at people like the reactionaries in Murfreesboro, TN (near Nashville), who filed a lawsuit to stop construction of a new mosque. One would have greater difficulty, I think, harnessing similar levels of protest against an already-existing mosque that had been in place for a number of years.

          A new store being built would attract greater levels of outrage and protest than an existing store.

          (The exception to this rule is PP clinics, which seem to attract their own type of crazy protesters, who comprise a core group of semi-permanent protesters.)

      • Conveniently left unquoted in this or any other review is the coda to that anecdote—the visit I made to the African American barbershop just down the same street from the Klan store.Here, a shop full of black patrons shook their heads in a mixture of resignation and fury at the town’s look-the-other-way attitude. A 26-year-old tool and die maker told me, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, to tell somebody like you about this.”

        Suppose it was a kosher deli down the street from a shop that sold the likenesses and works of You Know Who. Do we sympathize with their frustration, or dismiss it as a simple matter of free speech? (And if you consider what the Klan not only stands for but actually did for over fifty years, it’s not a strained analogy.)

          • Do you know how frustrating it is that so many people don’t seem to get that Voldermort is an metaphor for the Nazis? Not even a very subtle one but a bash you over the head one.

            I’ve explained that to adults and gotten a look of amazement like the comparison suddenly dawned on them.

          • Eh, evidence? I mean, he clearly represents evil, and Hitler was clearly evil. But was Rowling intending Voldemort to represent Hitler, and muggles as the stand-in for Jews?

    • Stop buying stuff from him.

      Since it’s a mail-order business, every local could refuse to buy without it making much of a dent in sales.

      • That makes more sense actually: how long would it take to saturate the market for Klan merchandise in one town? Though in that case he doesn’t need a storefront.

    • Perhaps the local government should not accept tainted money from “such a business” in the form of taxes. If most of the business is mail order, how much of it is transacted by people outside the South?
      And what does this have to do with the Confederate battle flag? Why associate it with some guy trying to make a buck off public domain merchandise instead of the local KFC franchise, or Popeye’s Chicken? It seems a sort of Pavlovian association; a forced connection based on repetition. People with a pre-existing hostility toward the region will find anything they believe negative – like some tiny, hole-in-the-wall business – and pair it up with the flag.
      Meanwhile Congress passes the NDAA which gives the president the power to imprison or kill anyone he desires based on an accusation, and everyone pledges allegiance to the striped banner and gets an emotional lump in their throat as they look at it and think of mom’s apple pie.

  3. All this being said, I think American society is going through a very serious civility problem and it is being compounded by a large group of people who never stopped expressing themselves in adolescent terms.

    There was an article in the most recent New Yorker about a sports radio talk show host in Alabama. A few years ago someone called into the show and declared himself a massive Crimson Tide fan and Auburn hater. He boosted about doing some tree-terrorism on Auburn’s campus by sowing lots of herbicide. According to the article, the man is now being charged with felonies and misdemeanors and his favorite shirt was Calvin pissing on Auburn’s logo.

    Am I the only person who thinks that there is a big problem when you have adults expressing themselves in such immature ways?

    I don’t mean to pick on the South as an example. You can find adults being just as juvenile up north.

    • College football does breed a bit of …ummmm… somewhat overexcited behaviour.

      Pet peeve alert: Calvin shirts and stickers. Bill Waterson never marketed Calvin. All those things are fake Calvins. If Watterson had wanted to get rich off of marketing C and H he could have. Screw fake Calvin’s and those who display them.

      • Yeah I know that about Calvin.

        Perhaps it is because I went to a Division III school but I think it is a big problem that College football breeds this “overexcited” behavior.

      • For me, the “Calvins” praying are the worst. Proclaiming your religious views through blatant copyright violation always sets my teeth on edge.

  4. I’ve spent my whole 40 years living in the not-south South (Raleigh-Durham, NC, where new arrivals seem to outnumber “natives” like my family by a wide margin), and the first thing I thought of while reading this post was the urban/rural divide, the increased “sorting” going on nationally, and how much longer there will be a rural South that is distinct from other rural parts of the United States in ways beyond food traditions and accents.

    • I think this is the big issue. It is not a South v. everyone else divide but a socio-cultural divide between urban and inner-ring suburban United States and exurban/rural United States.

      Rural Oregon has more in common with rural Alabama than it does with Portland or Eugene. Rural California has more in common with Rural Alabama than it does with Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, or San Francisco.

  5. The Confederacy had many flags, which led to confusion in battle on several occasions. The Confederacy was never a true union of states but rather a collection of squabblers who never gave their own government the authority to do much of anything except bicker about flag design. They chose the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia simply because they couldn’t agree on much else.

    If the the Second Flag of the Confederacy is to have any meaning in our time, it’s this: the Confederacy lost because it was not united. Let these historical ignoramuses have their flag if they want it: it’s become a symbol of good men gone to their deaths for evil causes, of disunion, a disguising wrapper around the dog turd that was the Confederacy itself. It’s not especially racist: the Klan had its own flag and has always flown the American flag at its rallies. There’s no telling people to stop being stupid: such talk only amuses them.

  6. Will,

    I like this post. I think I feel very similarly when my (mostly liberal, mostly middle and upper-middle class) friends deride evangelicals (sometimes extending their derision to anyone who has the audacity to believe in the supernatural), even though I’m no longer a believer. Of course, I carry my reaction too far and get too emotional and have to end up apologizing for my responses.

    I think “bigotry” and “chips on shoulders” are pretty much the same thing. And they feed into and reproduce each other.*

    *They don’t operate in a vacuum either, however, and some forms of bigotry/chips on shoulders are more pernicious than others. The type of bigotry of which white privilege is a part, for example, is fed and exacerbated by the long history of pro-white policies in a way that makes countervailing “chips on shoulders” more understandable, or at least arguably a defensive posture and not exactly the same in effect or purpose.

    • I credit Fred Clark of Slacktivist with showing me that all evangelicals are NOT fundamentalists. Some are even quite liberal (gasp!)

  7. For me, the flag itself is something I struggle with. As a Southerner, I admit that I still have a certain affinity for it as a sort of visual represenatation of Southern Pride. As someone who also tries to be self-critical and forward thinking I have to agree with Brad Paisley who sings,

    “Well the stars and bars offend some folks and I guess see why..”

    We need some kind of new symbol we can put on a bumper sticker. I feel like if we had that and it got popular 75% of those confederate flags would go away.

  8. Mike, this is amazing.

    I grew up a descendent of people who worked in the Lincoln administration. So that northern attitude you’re describing was my child-hood experience, amplified by pride. Not overt, not much spoken, but infusing things. Sometimes, it’s the unspoken that hold more power, no?

    When I was nine, my dad (he’d left us some time before,) took a job managing a dairy farm outside of Richmond, VA. And so my brothers and I went to spend the summer. I still clearly remember arriving at this big plantation house where my Dad lived, and wondering how the folk there survived the shame of it all. At first, when they spoke, I couldn’t understand much of what they said, took me some days to hear beyond the dialect. And then, they peeled back to be just people, but people with this occasional odd tic of embracing something that, to me, reeked of shame. You described it, inverted, so well here; that I cried:

    But it’s an attractive myth. Wanting to be proud of where you come from. Making convenient the fact that a lot of the relics that have been passed on from generation to generation involve having been on the wrong side of one of the nation’s great moral struggles. It’s very seductive. It requires little in the way of mental gymnastics to not see any contradiction between having these views and having friends (or at least acquaintances) of color. And those people who talk trash about you and yours? It only helps the myth, really. People telling you that the country would be better off without the likes of you only hardens it. It’s a line in the sand that I was born on the wrong side of. One where it is a challenge to look at the line and agree with the actual dynamics of the righteous and wrong side.

    There’s some work on my part of that divide, some need to applaud the progress; and yet I’m uncertain how to without invoking the dynamics of the righteous. It’s like the unspoken code still holds more power then reason.

    Thank you for this.

    • Where I struggle is with the notion that South vs. North is still about the Civil War. That seems to be too convienent for Northerners. They assume Southern Pride = wishing that we still had slavery. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

      • Certainly, there’s the embrace of a way of life that was beautiful. I mean really, as a woman, what’s not to admire about wearing hoop skirts while dancing under magnolias?

        But there’s some distancing between the freedom of wearing that hoop skirt and the lack of freedoms that enabled the ball it adorned.

        I had a friend who died last week. Her obituary spoke of all the good things in her life. And left out that she and her husband were estranged, scheduled to sign divorce papers after a multi-year property battle, just two days after she was diagnosed with the cancer that killed her. The obituary, somehow, seems like that South; leaving out the meat that filled the days, and only recalling the pleasant highlights.

        • Pride is often a good thing even if it is based in myth. Good things come from pride. Southern culture has never been more popular and in a good way. We needed Southern Pride to get there.

          • I agree; but perhaps pride in what Will describes — integrating Grant’s library into the culture — accepting the whole story?

            Growing up in my family, I had to face a truth: my Republican forbears were not the great and noble liberators I’d imagined them to be, they were a bunch of prudes who believed in social order first, no matter the consequences to those being ordered. Or to the nation being ordered, either.

      • They assume Southern Pride = wishing that we still had slavery.

        Using the Confederate flag as a symbol does suggest that.

        • Mike said it’s an oversimplification, implying that it’s at least partially true. People can and do, of course, disagree about how much explanatory weight ought to be placed on that truth.

          • Or a design with the faces of some awesome Southerners on it: Mark Twain, William Faulkner, George Washington, Louis Armstrong, Chesty Puller, Willie Mays, etc. The hard part would be picking just a few.

          • To be honest, Mike, I think that southern pride sticker will scare the shit out of Northerners. They will associate it with the old south.

            And unfortunately, those place-name stickers being all white just doesn’t help. I’ll admit the image just immediately made me think of the Klan. I don’t think that’s fair, and I don’t think that’s what it’s meant to represent. But that was the first, visceral, response.

            I think Mike’s suggestion is better. Or a slogan like “The South: Barbeque, Blues, and Hospitality.” Symbols that evoke only positive responses.

          • A magnolia with “Barbeque, Blues, and Hospitality” encircling it. Now that’s a southern t-shirt even I would wear.

          • James, is there also room for symbols like this?

            Two aides: this artist’s body of work includes paintings inspired by severe ocular migraine. He’s from away.

          • zic,

            I’m trying to help the south promote and market it’s good side, both so that we northerners recognize it, and so that–to whatever extent they haven’t–that set of retrograde southerners (whatever proportion of the population they constitute) come to identify more with the good stuff than the bad stuff.

            There’s always room for controversial art, no doubt. But I don’t think that image would be good for marketing and promotion. But should that be in a southern art museum? Yes, I think that would be the best place for it–in a northern art museum it wouldn’t actually cause anyone to pause and think; it would only reinforce their current prejudices against the south.

          • The best argument for regional pride comes down to the fact that this country is just too goddamn big for just one identity as a nation. Gotta have some pride of place. Everyone who comes over here is astonished by our inconceivable vastness.

            Barbeque and blues are as disputatious as Infant Baptism. Nor is hospitality an exclusively Southern virtue. There’s good barbeque pretty much everywhere in this nation. Except North Carolina. That nasty vinegar treatment constitutes abuse of perfectly innocent pigs who might otherwise be given a better fate. Kansas City and Chicago know what to do with that piggie. The Pacific Northwest is no slouch in the barbeque department: I’ve had Boston Butt in Portland worthy of the gods atop Olympus. Philadelphia is perfectly capable of producing pulled pork with the best of ’em. Our African-American citizens taught us the virtues of slow cooking but they only set things in motion.

          • We’ve family friends. The father’s an engineer, specializes in small-scale hydro turbans, the type appropriate to our geography in Western Maine. There’s a greenhouse on the side of the mountain where they live two miles off the power grid. His daughter, among the best of chiefs I know personally, grows our salad greens, eggs, other produce, and pigs.

            My son, who fits that strange syndrome of men who like working with metal and cooking both, will be curing and smoking some of that pig soon. Since I can’t eat nitrates, I rejoice.

          • James,
            I’m trying to help the south promote and market it’s good side, both so that we northerners recognize it, and so that–to whatever extent they haven’t–that set of retrograde southerners (whatever proportion of the population they constitute) come to identify more with the good stuff than the bad stuff.

            Totally understand this. I wrote tourist stuff for years, guiding folks to the river valley where I grew up. Part of what I sold was the once-polluted Androscoggin River Valley. Phony I’d be if I’ld told the tail of my river without it’s curse. A thorn in the foot, awaiting a mouse, a creature I despise, to pull it. Sometimes, you’ve just got to embrace your discomfort, because it’s the curse that closes the sale.

          • I really feel like I’m going to spend some time with Photoshop this weekend playing with this concept.

            I will agree with Blaise that BBQ is too ‘American’ to be claimed only by the South. I think we can fairly claim certain musical genres but that gets tricky. At he end of the day, it’s really about geography. It’s Pride of Place, to riff on Front Porch Republic. When we talk Southern Pride we’re really saying, “I’m proud to live in this geographic area (or hail from it) and I’m proud of our culture, flaws and all.”

          • I think Barbeque is strongly enough associated with the south that you could use it, but that’s all right. Just make it “Bourbon, Blues, and Hospitality” (and contra Blaise, I’ll say that there’s no hospitality quite like southern hospitality, based on my own experience in every corner of this fair land).

            The problem with making it just about price of place, geography, is that the north’s understanding of that place is concocted of all the bad shit. So you can’t just emphasize the place without content. It’s like a shirt that says “German Pride,” it’s going to reinforce–fairly or not–certain preconceptions. You need to change the content of northerners’ understanding of that place, and a reference to just the place, without any content, isn’t going to do that.

            Obviously this isn’t really your responsibility, and we’re not going to create a League marketing campaign for the south. But to the extent you want to change northerner’s understandings of the south, you have to give them different content than they already have. You can’t wipe out something with nothing.

          • Barbeque… REAL barbeque os absolutely a Southern thing. My fellow Yankees have no idea why I bristle when they call hot dogs on the grill a barbeque. A cookout, maybe… But a barbeque? Ugh.

          • Trivia question: what famous fictional character was nicknamed “Barbecue”? We’ve all heard of him, but generally not under that name. (Hint: he’s not a Southerner.)

        • Thanks. It’s been so long since I’ve gotten anything other than jack, or the silver medal at best, at these trivia questions.

    • I addressed this to Mike; should have been Will. Will, Mike, both, please forgive.

  9. Nice post, Will. The South is a conundrum for people who aint from there, I think. It’s a mixed up mess of lots of things that can’t really be sorted well. At least in my view. I remember the first time I went thru the Drive By Truckers albums. They’re a band from Alabama and write plenty of songs about the “Southern Condition” – for lack of a better phrase: from the paradoxical figure of George Wallace, to the remnants of slavery, to southern pride in the face of pretty obvious moral and ethical contradictions. The songs aren’t necessarily all that great (some are!), but what they revealed to me was that southerners (intelligent ones, anyway) aren’t ignorant of the paradoxes that confront them wrt their Southern-ness. The take-away was that even Southerners can’t explain what the hell the South is anymore. So, a fortiori, a Yankee won’t be able to do it either.

    • Stillwater, I think the southern identity is, as a collective, dissipating. Virginia and North Carolina are becoming more Mid-Atlantic, Texas and Florida are becoming more caramel and urban. I have mixed feelings about it, though on the margins I would consider it a positive (I think). Sort of like how a group of friends who were no good together start going their separate ways.

  10. Will,

    First, thanks for putting the post up. I know you were hesitant to based on how some other threads have gone. I hope the response has/will meet your expectations.

    I’ve never seriously considered the prospect of Southern secession. Growing up in the NY Metropolitan area and traveling almost exclusively in that area during my childhood (lone exceptions were a trip when I was very young to Virginia which I don’t remember and an 8th grade field trip to Washington, DC), I had very little contact with the south. But it always struck me as just another part of America that was different but no better or worse than my own. I remember considering Duke University as a possible college destination, to which my Italian grandmother responded, “The rebels will hate you because you’re Catholic!” This struck me as odd, inaccurate, and hopeless antiquated. Rebels? Seriously?

    In college, I got to know some kids from the south and appreciated the unique perspective and “culture” they offered. Since then, I’ve traveled to the south quite a bit (NOLA 3X, Austin 2X, Nashville, Houston, VA beach/Norfolk 3X, Deep Creek, MD, plus countless jaunts into the Virginia and Maryland countryside). I also lived in the Maryland suburbs of DC for two years.

    The only time I thought, “Holy crap… where am I?!?!” was when I drove to Deep Creek, out on the tail end of Western Maryland. As we (myself and another New Yorker) crossed the MD/PA border, we were a bit surprised at just how much the southern side celebrated the fact that we had crossed the Mason Dixon Line. There were several sides announcing such. On the way home, we saw no such signs. That stood out to me, a quite literal line of demarcation. And while I anticipated a broader cultural shift, the differences were more rural/urban than north/south. Included in the group was a dark-skinned Indian-American, a lighter-skinned Mexican-American, and a handful of painfully obvious northern urbanites. From the few interactions we had with the locals, I didn’t get any sense of unwelcomeness.

    I remember jokes about rednecks and hillbillies and all that but never had any experience to this effect. I remember growing up and thinking of the South as a more racist place, perhaps a more “backwards” place, but never really generated an emotive response to this. As I’ve come to understand the classist elements of this perception, I’m increasingly bothered by it, even though I often find myself vehemently disagreeing with the region’s political or social leanings.

    I don’t know that I have much to say here. Maybe my generation sees less of a north/south divide. As folks travel further for college and are more likely to leave their home areas, maybe this will abide. When I see secessionist petitions, I dismiss them as a very loud, impractical, and generally thoughtless minority.

    I like the south. I don’t know that I’d live there, but I’d rather it be a part of our country than not.

    • Southerners tend to be more open about their racism. Spots are spots and all that. Northerners dress theirs up in things like “militias” and all that tomfoolery.
      Maybe it’s just that Northerners have more of a sense of bieng in the minority and discriminated against (rightly so) if they’re racist.

      The KKK’s heartland is no longer in the south.

    • It’s kind of funny how border-crossing works. Out here, we make a thing about when we cross the border from Utah to Idaho (From Mormon-Heavy to Mormon-Lite*) and Idaho to Montana or Wyoming (Mormon-Lite to Rest-of-America!) and we cheer. We’re trying to explain the cheering to our daughter, but she doesn’t quite grasp the concept yet.

      * – I realize that saying this is, in light of my post, potentially problematic. But I can just as easily talk about the good things of Mormonland as I can the bad ones. It’s just that we’re not comfortable there. (Which is funny because we may be going back…)

      • Well, thats your explanation right there, no? We’re not cheering because weescaped their evil clutches; we’re happy to be in a place where you feel more comfortable. And here are the reasons why we feel more comfortable here and less comfortable there.

        Eventually, she’ll find her own senses of comfort and you will have modeled both that it is fine and appropriate to do so AND that one can successfully live outside their comfort-zone and not feel bound by it.

        • A bit of a tangent, but it’s actually this sort of thing that turned me on the Confederate Flag issue (ten or fifteen years ago). I want African-Americans to be comfortable in the South. Or, at least, as comfortable as possible. And so, even if the Confederate Flag did not mean to me what it meant to them, the fact that they have the response to it that they do is itself far more significant than intent. We shouldn’t be sending out signals that are seen as hostile to such a significant portion of the population. It was a relatively short hop from there to realizing that, if I were in their shoes, I’d feel exactly the same way about the flag that they do. (Seriously, people underestimate how difficult internal deprogramming is even when it comes to comparatively smart and well-meaning individuals.)

          In my home city, there are a number of schools named after Robert E. Lee. Now, my view of REL is slightly more nuanced than my view of Jefferson Davis, but it’s a sad irony that most of the schools named after Lee are predominately populated with African-Americans. (I could explain why, but it actually wasn’t designed that way – they were mostly white schools once upon a time.)

          Every now and again there are pushes to rename the schools. And the inevitable pushback along the lines of the extent we should have to rename our* schools because somebody is offended. Leaving aside the fact that the offense is justified, shouldn’t people who go to a school not be repelled by its name? There may be times when it’s problematic to accommodate this – or we shouldn’t for whatever reason – but when it comes to the schools that they attend, it’s a pretty straightforward accommodation.

          * – The “we” and “ours” alone is an uncomfortable declaration. But I can give it a pass in some cases at least because the most pushback often comes from people who attended the school before the racial shift occurred. But whether you attended it or not, it’s not your school anymore. If it belongs to anyone, morally speaking, it belongs to the kids that are going their and their parents.

  11. I wonder if some sort of a cultural bargain could be reached about the Civil War. Something in my mind sees a workable exchange in one set of partisans conceding the honor of the men who fought for the Confederacy — adherence to the warrior code and a desire for self-determination — while still insisting on the dishonor of the cause for which they fought. And hoping that if such a concession could be made, that in exchange a lot of the revisionism aimed at justifying the Lost Cause be understood as mythology rather than reality, because Lost Cause mythology was authored by the very men who fought with honor for a dishonorable cause and wished, as warriors do, to present a cleaned image of themselves to history. Honor can be preserved and recognized, the causes can be condemned, and revisionism can be discarded in favor of truth.

    Or as Mike hopes, maybe a new symbol of regional pride and identity can arise, and attain cultural cachet of its own, leaving the variant of St. Andrew’s Cross from the Battle Flag behind as a relic of things past.

    • Damn all the lost causers for soiling an innocent man’s reputation!
      Mythology needs villains, so they fucking created one out of an honest man.

    • You know, the seed of a new symbol of regional pride and identity can arise, and attain cultural cachet of its own might be embedded in Romney’s 47% comments, in some perverse way. Because when the view of takers has grown to include half the population (rounding), some new definition of taker, not rooted in the grand cultural taking and racism of the past, ferments. A lot of liberal reading the southern conservatism was of continued racism; yet the talk expands to comprise that half. Perhaps I’m addled and fantasizing happy potentials, but such a broad construing does seem to open the door for other symbols.

      • My gut tells me that the New Southern Culture is based in movements like the Garden & Gun crowd which is essentially the hipsterization of the South. It’s the exhaltation of pork and handmade knives, praise of ancient gun clubs and urban renewal in cities like Chattanooga and Richmond. My fair city is riding that wave right now.

        • Mike, I’m very ill informed.

          Is True Blood part of this Southern Gentrification?

          • Zic,

            Not sure. For food it’s mostly the kind of places Anthony Bourdain would go to. High-end hunting lodges. High-end crafts. Modern takes on Southern folk music.

            I attended a Garden & Gun cocktail social this past spring and it was a lot of seersucker and floral prints for the ladies.

    • The problem is that Cultures of Honor and the Warrior Code are completely alien to me.

      And if I am really honest sometimes the Borderlanders remind of the Cossacks from whom my ancestors fled.*

      So says someone who likes being part of “The People of the Book”. I do have a respect for the Jewish Resistance fighters during WWII and the IDF but violence should never be a first way to resolve disputes. Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr are more admirable than Irgun and Hamas.

      *I suppose this is where class identifiers get very confusing and are often so subjective as to not make sense to anyone on the outside. I know someone who still identifies as being a firm Borderlander even though said person converted to Islam and is not really rural. Said person also takes pride in the relative who went back to being an army grunt because they hated their classmates at Yale Law. This is mind-boggling to me. Completely unrelated, I know another person who identifies as a prole because they want to a large state university and someone at a private college once made a snooty remark about it. Said person grew up just as upper-middle professional class as me and had parents with fancy graduate degrees and jobs. YMMV I guess but I don’t see how anyone can call themselves a prole with a straight face with that kind of background.

        • This is a good point — even if you are not personally part of such a culture, there is a lot of fiction out there that offers a reasonable enough portrayal of it (in lots of different incarnations) that you can get the flavor and an appreciation for its impact on a person’s identity.

        • Sure but I’ve always liked the Bajorans more. Speaking of being hit over the head with metaphors.

          Also yay for Major Kira

          • Kim,

            Major Kira was from DS9, not TNG and present since the first episode.

          • NewDealer,

            yes, having just noted that I’m on season 2 of ds9, I do indeed recognize the name Major Kira.

            I’ve been watching them with the sort of person who gets commissioned to rewrite lost design documents, so… the tales have been interesting, if slightly spoilery.

          • We named our daughter after Major Kira Nerys. Strong, tough, intelligent. Never backs down. Just what I want her to model.

      • They ought to. The cossacks were the castoffs of Russia, as the Borderlanders were the castoffs and malcontents of England/scotland.

  12. First off Will, I have to say that I thought this post was really quite wonderful. It’s the kind of thing that made me say “I wish I’d written that” in a whole bunch of places.

    If I had one quibble, it might be this:

    “What, precisely, are southerners or Americans supposed to do to make them no longer “able” to operating such a business? Yet, until they are somehow driven out of business, they besmirch the region? A failure to close down a store on the basis of its politics is “looking the other way”? Objecting residents can boycott, but they are unlikely to be shopping there in the first place. As long as this is the metric by which the South is to be judged, it’s a losing proposition.”

    I’m not sure that I necessarily sit all the way on the opposite side of this comment, mind you, but this viewpoint still seems to be missing much of the landscape. Every region has its own idiosyncratic tendencies, of course, and many are good and many are terrible – and this seems like such case.

    I cannot for the life of me imagine a store like that opening where I come from; if it somehow were to open, I can’t imagine it happening without a great degree of pretty universal public outrage. And if somehow some guy were to open the store here, and he was able to weather constant public outrage, it wouldn’t have the market for sales to offset its first month’s lease payment – let alone stay open for years. And I”m not just saying that for Portland, I’m saying that for any small, rural Oregon, Washington or Northern California town as well.

    So, while I get that it is an error to translate that into “everyone that lives in the South is a racist redneck,” it’s still hard for me not to take note of the rather startling fact that this store is a fixture in this town. Stuff like this makes me think there has to be some real estate in between “Southerners are all Hillbillies” and “they’re exactly the same as everyone else, and like everyone else they have a few bad eggs.” We have a lot of bag eggs round these parts, but if we don’t have *that* kind of bad egg…. Or, perhaps more likely, we do have that kind, but because of the culture they live in they know to be very, very private about it.

    So even though I am not a proponent of, say, the government stepping in and shutting the store down, I feel less certain about a culture that seemingly allows it to fester.

    That seems a thing worth paying attention to, and it likewise seems a thing for Southerners to take more seriously than I sense they by-and-large are inclined to do.

    • Tod, mobile thanks. on the later thing, it’s not that I consider the existence of such a place irrelevant. rather, that I consider the fact that it is”tolerated”and that this is indicative of the regional mentality to be problematic. even African Americanso at the barbershop”tolerate”it. it doesn’t mean broad approval of the sentiment behind the place. one of the advantages of not being in the south is not to be confronted with these sorts of situations (and having anything less than constant protest or running them out of town with pitchfork as implied approval) .

      • evidently I need to work on my glide typing while Holding Lain.

      • “even African Americanso at the barbershop”tolerate”it. it doesn’t mean broad approval of the sentiment behind the place.”

        Might this be because of an internalized mindset that tolerance of such be required for smooth social functioning? If the African-Americans spoke up, would they be supported by their community or would they be seen as upsetting the waters somehow? Even if it is the former, do they have confidence that that would be the response?

        • I view it more as… what is the likelihood that making a (very justified) stink would actually change anything. The people who patronize such a place don’t care what they (or I) think.

          • Isn’t that one in the same, though? They’ve learned that in that community, objecting to such explicit racism is a fool’s errand, in a way that it might not be in, say, Tod’s neighborhood in Portland. That isn’t just a function of market forces; there is something larger at play, something cultural.

          • Kazzy, my point isn’t that Portland and Shreveport are the same. My point is that there isn’t much that most people in Shreveport can do about the minority who makes a place like that possible and that setting the standard to be that either the business goes or you don’t care is to set an impossible and self-defating standard. All it takes is one racist tenant and one racist landlord (or both) and it doesn’t matter how much you think your community won’t put up with it, there aren’t many options (especially with it being a mail-order place). Fortunately for Portland, there is another place that they can set up shop. So they get to avoid the whole thing altogether. It is to Portland’s credit that racists would prefer to live somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean they are really liked or accepted by the broader community where they lived (only that they have a niche there). Or, most importantly, that they should be considered indicative of it.

          • Would be great points, Trum,
            except that liberals get harrassed.

            You don’t see those people running that store with their tires slashed, keys run down their cars, any of that other malicious stuff, now do you?

          • I agree that the presence of the store doesn’t sully the entire town and it’s people. And while there might be nothing practically that individuals can do to cease its existence, there are steps they can take to appropriately register their dissatisfaction with it, steps that would signal to the broader community that that store does not represent them.

            It would not shock me to learn that there exists a subset of the population that does not openly embrace or patronize the store, and might even abhor it on a number of levels, but which takes a certain… I don’t want to say pride but maybe sick joy in its existence because they aren’t about to let some librul PC police tell them who can set up shop in their town… or whathaveyou.

            Basically, I’d venture to get that part of the store’s existence is predicated on a tacit acceptance of it motivated by folks wanting to stick their finger in the eye of a broader society they disagree with and perhaps feel persecuted by.

            It absolutely means something that we can say, “That store would NEVER last in Portland,” but cannot say the same for where ever it is we are talking about.

          • I take serious issue with the application of “tacit approval” here. The Confederate Flag on the statehouse requires tacit approval by the state’s population. The confederate emblem on the state flag requires tacit approval. A statue of Jefferson Davis at a state university requires tacit approval. A Confederate War Memorial on public grounds requires tacit approval.

            What all of these have in common is that there is a clear way to force change. Change the flag. Tear down the statue. Sell the war memorial to a land developer for a shopping mall.

            But the KKK store, even if 90% of the population find it absolutely abhorrent*, it’s not clear what can be done about it. What might work.

            Portland’s virtue here may exist, but it will likely never be tested. They don’t have the bloody history. They don’t have the cultural identification held by much of any of its citizenry. They don’t have the 10% who do not find it abhorrent. They scarcely have African-Americans (by southern standards). It’s easy for them to be righteous on this sort of thing. And even then, all it takes is one racist or indifferent property manager and one tenant with an affection for the KKK. It just so happens that most such people would rather live in Idaho or already live in the South.

            Before I’m willing to put that in the same category as a Jefferson Davis statue, I’d need to hear what can be done beyond vague assurances that “of course Portland would find a way.” Portland doesn’t face the same set of challenges. It’s like saying because I can balance my checkbook, anybody that can’t has something wrong with them.

            * – I don’t know if it’s 90%. It’s an example. I will say this, though: There is a poke-a-liberal’s eye mentality and it does manifest itself. But not in support of the KKK. Not even among people that I would characterize as racist.

          • *stomps foot* Dammit, will! The heartland of the KKK in America isn’t even IN the south anymore. And there are plenty of racists most places, organized even. Minutemen in the south, Militia up north.

            Yeah-huh, maybe there aren’t any in Portland. Maybe.

            Ya ought not to live in this country if you can’t be cognizant of who hates you, and how to stay away from their strongholds.

          • The “tacit approval” only applied to the folks adhereing to thoughts of the type, “I don’t like it but I don’t like political correctness even more so damned if I’m going to protest it and let the libruls win.” That is certainly not a position held by all, but possibly enough to tip the scales.

            And all of the challenges you cite are real reasons why that place is different than Portland. It is not just the citizenry and their outrage… It is all that other stuff which makes up that cultural difference. I also think there is a bit of laziness (not unique to the region in question) whenever the “We can’t do anything about it, so why bother” line is trotted out.

          • Kazzy,

            To me, it’s lazy for Chuck Thompson to point to this thing that should be changed without offering a clue as to what precisely should be done. He could win me over if he did some legwork and demonstrated that the property in question was actually owned by the city or was owned by a developer that also owned the property for a bunch of places that could be boycotted. Now, even there, you might have to look at the trade-offs (is it worth holding Dillards captive for having the wrong landlord?). But at least then it could be demonstrate that it was a choice being made rather than something that simply, unfortunately, is.

            One of my readers at Hit Coffee is Haitian-American. I’ve been trying to convince him that he should relocate out of NYC (long story). I’d love to be able to say “You should move to Colosse* where the economy is booming and cost-of-living is expensive.” But he wouldn’t be comfortable there and I can’t blame him. There are enough of the wrong kind that… while I wish I could say everything would be fantastic, I can unfortunately make no assurances.

            Now, Zaulem** I can recommend. It’s not as inexpensive, but the economy is also good. Fewer African-Americans, but way better racial relations on the whole. Now, I can talk all day about what makes Colosse different than Zaulem and that most (white) people in both are really quite decent. That doesn’t change my friend’s perspective on where he would be comfortable. So what I am saying with this paragraph and the last one is that I recognize that – regardless of the reasons – such things do make a difference. I just also wanted it noted it’s all a part of a very complicated tapestry.

            * – A city – or group of cities – in the South where I grew up.

            ** – A city – or group of cities – in the northwest where I lived prior to moving here.

          • Complicated tapestry, indeed. The whole “North good, South bad” is so overly simplified as to be useless. If that is the tone of book (I skimmed it, didn’t read it), then, yea, that is lazy and problematic. There are some black folks who prefer “Southern racism” to “Northern racism”. If you buy into that sloppy divide (I don’t), that alone turns North good, South bad on its head. They’re different places, with different histories, different cultures, different people, etc. Complicated tapestry indeed. I read you as saying, “The presence of the KKK store doesn’t tell you anything about the people there outside of its owners and patrons.” I think it does tell us something, just maybe not what the author wants us to conclude (which is South = bad).

    • Tod – it’s amazing the way small businesses can stay open. There is a little store I know in KY that can only described as a ‘junk shop’. The owner sells the most ridiculous, irrelevant, poor quality kitsch you have ever seen. Nothing I would ever buy. Yet he’s been open for years. That shop is probably limping along on a shoestring budget, perhaps with cash infusions from the national KKK.

      Not to say that the culture isn’t flawed. We are. We have racist tendencies. So do Southies in Boston.

  13. I feel it worth saying that one of the things I like about LoOG is that a topic like this one can have a variety of perspectives presented in civil fashion. There aren’t a lot of places like that. Thank you to everyone.

  14. I find this article bothersome on many levels.

    For one you did not once take into account the actions of “said” war and how the complete destruction of the south into the stone ages has helped create the “race” issue.

    Being from the south you would think that you would at least come down logically understanding both sides of the arguement.

    The “Confed” flag as you call it was indeed hijacked by hate groups but no more so than the American flag… but I digress….. the real issue here is taking a flag, which means different things to different people and making a roughshot judgement.

    Now Im not here to argue “said” war but I think there is some validity to the southern persepective…

    But overall the biggest issue I have with the article is the authors disregard for the Constitutional right to free speech, freedom of expression.

    However appaling mr KKK-mart may be the only reason he exists is because someone somewhere is buying that garbage…

    Freedom of thought cannot be legislated and I chose not to associate with such ilk as should anyone else… but as much as I dispise it’s content I fall on the side of freedom and our constitution which says he has the right to….

    Once we start attempting to police peoples thought then we have lost… It’s the same thing in either direction…. Singling out Mr KKK-mart and shutting him down because you don’t agree with his misguided thoughts on race is the same as closing down a black run business during Jim Crow era…

    The North created these divisions following “said” war, pitting poor whites against newly freed poor blacks…

    I would suggest a great book concerning this called “Emancipation Hell” which covers reconstruction and race divisions.

    For all of you who buy the “war of emacipation” I ask you to read period writings… and tell me how the treatment of any other race before, during and following that war (hint hint “Native American’s”) could possibly happen in a world where the irradication of slavery and a freeing of peoples not from this contentent contrasts with those here before us.

  15. “the complete destruction of the south into the stone ages has helped create the “race” issue.”

    God help me for not leaving this one alone, but you don’t think the enslavement of one race of people by another race of people had anything at all to do with the “race” issue?

    • Well given the War Between the States wasn’t really ABOUT slavery…..

      Let’s see. Invaders from the North lay waste to an entire society and then complain that those Southerners, whose asses were kicked back in the day, are all uppity now with all this “Southern Pride”. For trying to salvage some of their heritage, resist being the North’s whipping boy, and push back against the perception that everyone below the Mason-Dixon line are a bunch of inbred, incest spawned rednecks that want to go back to the good old day before “Gone with the Wind”. Add to that the Scot’s-Irish component. You’re surprised by this?
      “Southern Pride” manifests itself in a variety of ways, some very negative, some mixed, some positive, as any human endeavor does.
      I’m from the South and was partially raised there. Both my parental units and their families lived in the South, and think I inherited some of the best aspects of that region. Sadly, some of that has been eroded by living in the Mid-Atlantic region and dealing with snooty northerners and mindless Clovers: Northerners who think that anyone who doesn’t liver here, or in Cali, is a bunch of rednecks oafs. Frankly, the attitude towards white southerners in the Bosh-Wash area borders on racism. The only difference between this form of racism and the “more conventional forms” is that people have to get to know me first to find out I’m from the South verses just looking at my skin.

      • I’m not surprised by some reactions or attitudes of Southerners. My beef isn’t with the South. My beef was with the comment that the “race” issue was created by the North laying waste to the South. My beef is with the fact that this laying waste did not precede slavery. Slavery predates Sherman’s March. To say that racism was a by-product of the Northern victory is the same kind of revisionism that does cause some Northerners to dismiss Southerners who make the revisions.

        • I don’t think the war and related destruction “created” the race issue. Was it a factor? I think so. How much vs. other factors? Don’t know. I’m sure these points could be argued about for years.

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